News in brief: Report confirms further fall in Welsh Covid infection rates
Latest figures from the Office for National Statistics confirm Wales has the lowest Covid infection rates in the UK but indicate the decline in cases is “levelling off” in the period covered by its weekly study.
For the week ending 20 March they calculate that 6,700 people in Wales had coronavirus, equating to around 1 in 450 people.
For the previous week it was estimated that 7,000 people in Wales had Covid, around 1 in 430 people.
With the fall in cases over recent weeks the ONS warns current estimates “are subject to increased uncertainty” due to the smaller number of positive tests.
The positivity rate calculated by the ONS is the percentage of people who have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, with or without having symptoms, on a swab taken from the nose and throat.
In England the proportion of people testing positive equates to around 1 in 340 people.
The figures In Northern Ireland estimate around 1 in 320 people had the virus over the seven days covered and in Scotland it was 1 in 240.
Meanwhile, today’s update from Public Heath Wales confirms three further deaths due to coronavirus and 190 new cases.
Two of the newly reported deaths were in the Cwm Taf Morgannwg health board area and there was one further death in Betsi Cadwaledr.
Swansea (30) recorded the highest number of new cases in the last 24 hours, followed by Cardiff (22) and Anglesey (18).
Merthyr Tydfil has the highest seven-day case rate at 134.3 per 100,000 people, up from 127.6 yesterday and and the weekly positive test proportion in Merthyr is the highest in Wales at 7.4% up from 7.1% per 100,000 tests.
Ceredigion has recorded just seven cases this week and has a case rate of 9.6.
The weekly national case rate has fallen to 38.5 from 39.1 in the last 24 hours and the positive test proportion dropped is down from to 3.2% to 3.1.
Responding to the lifting of “stay local” measures from tomorrow, Dr Robin Howe, Incident Director for Covid-19 outbreak response at Public Health Wales, said: “This slight easing of Covid lockdown rules is encouraging, however while the number of cases is declining overall, there are still several areas which have significantly higher rates.
“This is a stark reminder of the need for everyone to maintain constant vigilance, by practising hand hygiene, keeping 2m apart from people that you don’t live with, and wearing a mask in indoor environments.
“It is clear that Coronavirus has not gone away, and there are still a large number of people who have not been vaccinated. In order to protect everyone, including the most vulnerable, we must all stick to the rules.
“Welsh Government restrictions state that you should not go into any other household or mix indoors with other people who you don’t live with.”
Moratorium on large-scale energy from waste plants announced
The Welsh Government has introduced an immediate moratorium on new large scale energy from waste facilities as part of its Beyond Recycling strategy.
Last year, Wales achieved its highest ever recycling rate, at over 65% and as a result the government says need to burn waste, or send it to landfill, will reduce.
The new moratorium will cover new energy from waste plants with capacity of 10MW or more, and will come into effect immediately.
The moratorium will also mean small-scale plants, of less than 10MW, will only be allowed if applicants can show there is a need for such facilities in the regions in which they are planned. Small plants would also need to supply heat, and – where possible – be carbon-capture and storage enabled, or ready.
Action is also being taken to tackle plastic pollution, with two upcoming consultations covering reforms for plastic packaging and a new Deposit Return Scheme for drinks containers.
“We are proud that we are well on our way to making Wales a zero waste and carbon net-zero nation,” Lesley Griffiths, the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, said.
“From electric collection vehicles on our streets to the Circular Economy Fund supporting re-use shops and repair cafés in our communities, people across Wales will see important changes from these actions in their communities.
“The moratorium on large-scale energy from waste and the upcoming consultations on plastic packaging and deposit return are a clear statement of our intent. Collectively they show how we are taking action to make the circular economy a reality in Wales by keeping resources in use and avoid all waste.”
“I’m delighted to see that Labour have seen sense, listened to us – and as importantly listened to the voices of people in Wales – and done a U-turn over these large-scale incinerators, “ Russell George MS, Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Economy, Transport and Mid Wales said.
“With the Welsh Government developing its future waste strategy, I have been calling for a moratorium so they can take stock of the environmental impact of incinerators and also for consideration on whether there would be any over-capacity of large incinerators in Wales.”
“It’s not what the people of Montgomery want or need, and the supposed ‘green’ benefits are vastly outweighed by the distances that waste for them needs to be transported.”
New mobile testing centre opens in Bridgend
Hannah Neary, local democracy reporter
People experiencing coronavirus symptoms will be able to get tested at a new facility in Llangeinor from today.
The new centre will be available for walk-in tests at the Richard Price Centre, Bettws Road, Llangeinor (CF32 8PF) everyday from 9am to 5pm. Booking is not required.
The drive-through centre at Halo Swimming Pool, Marshfield Avenue, Pyle closed yesterday.
Bridgend Council Leader Huw David said: “While the vaccination programme continues and infection rates continue to fall, we must all remain vigilant and continue to follow guidance and get tested.
“Anyone who is showing symptoms of coronavirus – a persistent dry cough, high temperature or change in their sense of taste of smell – should arrange to have a test as soon as possible.
“If you are symptomatic, please make sure you use these facilities and help to keep your community safe as we continue to fight the spread of Covid-19.”
Data from Public Health Wales shows the infection rate across Wales is 39.1 cases per 100,000 people – the first time in over six months it has been below 40.
The last time Wales’ infection rate was below 40 was September 16 2020.
Figures show 1,320,188 people have received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine and 378,795 have had both doses.
Residents in Bridgend county borough can also access walk-through appointments at a testing centre based in the Bowls Hall car park off Bridgend Life Centre (CF31 4AH). Bookings are essential and available from 8am to 8pm.
Appointments can be made via the Welsh Government website or by calling 119. People with hearing or speech difficulties can book tests by calling 18001119.